While I naturally want to get everything done, sometimes I need to juggle. Not being a circus star, I need to prioritize all the balls I have in the air. Otherwise, I may end up dropping the wrong one.
When I consider my range of tasks, there are usually three types: the must dos, the should dos and the could dos.
Three Balls Approach to Prioritizing
Glass balls refer to the things that I must do. If I drop one of these balls, they tend to break and damage occurs. Typically, glass balls need to be handled in the short-term and are directly related to a strategic priority or key opportunity.
Rubber balls refer to the things that I should do. If I drop one of these balls, they tend to bounce up and I generally get a second chance at them. But I need to be careful, because eventually they will stop bouncing and the opportunity to act will be gone.
Lead Balls refer to the things that I could do. If I drop one of these balls, they tend to fall to the ground and sit there. These lead balls are rarely addressed as they typically get bumped by new glass or rubber balls. While occasionally one or two lead balls survive, if I’m honest, the impact of lead balls is minimal.
What if there is still too much?
There have been times when I have simply had too many glass balls. In these situations, I have been honest. I have lobbied for assistance and/or flexibility with a deadline. The trick here is to communicate upfront. There cannot be any surprises.
Delegating goes Hand in Hand with Prioritizing
Delegating is another great opportunity to manage a full plate. Over the years, I have gotten much better at delegating. More precisely, I have dedicated a great deal of time to building and coaching teams. My philosophy is to hire great people who can do the work.
Prioritizing is no Circus Act
At the end of the day, I strive to make sure that everything that I do lines up with my strategy. And while I do need to juggle at times, I don’t need to be a circus star. As long as I stay focused on those glass balls (and to some extent the rubber balls too), I am bound to feel good about what I can get done.